My friend Carol and I had planned a trip to Sylvia Beach Hotel and then her new job intervened so Allan and I went instead. He’d never been. I wasn’t sure how he’d take to “the game” (Two Truths and a Lie) played at dinner but he did well with three stories: his mother in law was a Marine, he used to be a Ba’hai and …oh, I forget the third, but he fooled everyone with the second story since having been married to a Ba’hai had him well versed in its lore.
I advise on a trip from the Peninsula to Sylvia Beach that you be sure to stop at Bear Creek Artichokes to lay in some excellent traveling snacks and condiment treats to take home. In gardening season it’s a good plant nursery, as well. It has limited offseason hours.
Also Allan had to see the thrilling Devil’s Punchbowl and a lighthouse…
where we quite liked this sign protecting the lighthouse landscaping:
Allan went to the very top and got a window view of the lighthouse park in the storm.
It felt to me like a homecoming to arrive at the hotel. I tracked down house cat Dickens…and eventually lured him into the E.B. White room where we spent the first night.
For our second night, we moved into the more expensive Colette room.
The “red raft” (named after the bed where she lounged when ill, I believe) became my reading spot, even better than the red chair because the raft had a view of the ocean.
Carol would have liked the details of this room; maybe we’ll stay in it again next time.
Dickens the cat did not follow us to Colette, but Shelley the cat did.
On the red raft I gathered up and read every one of the room journals. Should I tire of reading, I could gaze at the windy beach outside my window.
the raft, the journals, the view
When I’d finished all the journals from Colette, I nipped into Mark Twain and borrowed a couple from there. One precocious high school girl wrote in several journals. She endeared herself to me with her love of reading and I looked for her handwriting and tracked her through several journals. By now she would be an adult and, I hope, having a good life.
Next time I think perhaps the Mark Twain room would be the place to stay. Look at that enticing stack of journals.
While I read, Allan explored the beach and the nearby town and spent time in the Sylvia Beach library, as did I, catching up on the library guest journals.
He spotted and photographed this most perfect handwashing admonition in the bathroom off the library.
This would be right across the hall from the Herman Melville room with its Great White Bed.
I never want to leave the SBH but we had cats and work projects waiting for us at home. We stopped in Depoe Bay for a bit on the way home. I’d never realized what a fascinating small harbour I’d been passing on the mission to get to SBH as soon as possible. The marina is entered through a dauntingly small passage through rock.
We took a detour on the Three Capes scenic route on the way home. The area from Pacific City north to Oceanside reminds me a great deal of the Peninsula. Next to Brewin’ in the Wind coffeeshop in Oceanside a string of old fashioned beach cabins looks like a great place to stay.
There’s a certain kind of salty old beach cabin, a little rustic, a little mildewed, a little run down, that is hard to find nowadays. These have probably been refurbished and have all mod cons, but I can dream. I’d like to have my morning coffee at the corner table, and I do approve of the sentiments on the coffeeshop t-shirts.
Our last stop of interest at the north end of the Three Capes Route was Cape Meares, with the most beautiful park sign I have ever seen.
When you walk down the long path to the lighthouse, it’s a surprise to to find out that it’s a really short one!
February 2012: Three and a half years have slipped away without a visit to Sylvia Beach, but Carol and I have reservations for April. The E.B. White room has become Steinbeck and was booked, so for our inexpensive room night we’ll have Oscar Wilde, and for the expensive night we’ll have Mark Twain. I hope that big stack of journals is waiting for me and that I can find out what happened to the prolific young writer who made so many entries and had such dreams.
My favourite thing to do at SBH is to read the room journals. On my latest trip, I read all ten of the Colette journals, caught up on E.B. White and the library journals since last year, and managed to get my hands on a few from Tennessee Williams, Melville, and Mark Twain. Must stay in the Mark Twain room as it has LOTS of journals. Had I known the guests for that room did not show up Sat night, I would have snuck in there and stayed up reading!
There is a theme through the Mark Twain journals that I want to follow: an articulate teenager named Megan W____ wrote every year as she was growing up, and the other guests followed her story. I Googled her and I found a Megan W______ who is a successful chef. Does anyone here know her? Entries in the later journals were hoping that she had ended up with a good life…
I found out about Edna, an octagernarian who used to rent the RLS [Robert Louis Stevenson] room for two months out of every summer from ’88 to perhaps the mid 90s or later.
Pat Hendersen is a name which recurs often in the library and dorm room diaries.
In one of the journals this time, I found this moving entry:
“This is the first time since 1962 that I have been back. As a child we stayed next door at the Gilmore Apts–a shabby companion to the Gilmore Hotel (now the SBH) next door. The apartment house fell victim to the 1962 storms but the tips of the foundations are still visible from the beach. In those days only the little sea cottages were nearby and a skating rink (now a parking lot) and the tiny business block which used to include a saltwater taffy store, a cheap shell souvenir shop and a mom and pop grocery.
“How odd it is to hold the memory of what should be visible. I am the only one left of that little group who travelled to visit Mrs. Gilmore in the late 50s. Tonight I hung my cell phone out the window of the Herman Melville room so my mom in Idaho could hear the surf at her old Newport Beach. She cried and so did I, for times past, family gone, and some things eternal–like the ocean that buffets this dear old hotel still,”
Robyn 3-23-93 (Melville room)
Another entry in the Melville room:
“Herman Melville…the great novelist. I particularly fancied his masterpiece ‘One Fish, two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’. Or was that Dr. Suess?
From the Colette room:
September 2005 “Alone now. Wife dead, son dead, this sweet place resonates with affirmations of love and reminds this old fellow of things eternal. Blessings to all who follow.” Jack Clay, Seattle
And good advice from the Colette room journals:
“Never stay less than two nights, and never leave the premises during your stay unless you have to.”
Another member of the group responded:
“I have stayed up many a night reading the journals in the rooms..I was thrilled when I found entries from my Grandmother after she passed away…she loved SBH.
“The first night I ever stayed there, we had been driving up from the Shakespearean Festival and she went to bed quite early… I took all the journals from the room and started reading them. Then I read all the library/sitting room journals. I was joined by a guy who was staying there for the first time also..he hadn’t know about the journals so he went and got his from Oscar Wilde ~~ soon he was waking up his brother and sister-in-law in Collete and his parents in F.Scott Fitzgerald for theirs..we stayed up all night.
I have kept a journal since the 4th grade so I am way into the journals
Do you know about the Hidey Hole in Mark Twain where people leave gifts for the next people??” (No, I don’t, but I am still Facebook friends with this person because of this chance imaginary meeting in the SBH group, so must ask her before we go!)
She wrote further: “Up in the library…there is a journal that is pink or purple pale? with fishes on it?? there is a photo of my Grandmother in it sitting in her favorite place in living room
While I stayed there in August, I hide chocolate treats etc… with clue in journals and it was so much fun to read after people found them…random acts of chocolate…in Emily Dickinson in older journal is a pen drawing by a new husband of his young bride in bed.. absolutely Brilliant!!!”
This reminded me to write: “I once put a stamp inside a journal in the Wilde room next to the entry to a woman who often wrote in that one…and asked her to drop me a postcard (with my address) and she did…We corresponded for a little while; this was before email was common or we might have stayed in touch.” She used always to bring her Teddy bear and write about what he thought of the visit!
Another person added this to the thread: “Your first entry on this thread mentions an octagenarian by the name of Edna. I have read many of the journals on my many stays but have not come across any with Edna’s entries.
I was very fortunate to have met Edna on her very first (of many) visits to the hotel. She walked the beach daily in her “nice clothes”, didn’t seem to mind getting blown by the wind. She had stories to tell of her life (England, New York, etc.) and you could find her either at breakfast with the whole table listing to her or later in the day/night up in the living room with guests sitting around her on the floor like little children listing to her tales.
On her second visit to the hotel, I happened to be there. She remembered me from the year before and asked about the “young man” that had been with me! Surprised me; she was a “sharp as a tack” as they say.
At that time, she mentioned that she was going to move to Portland. Her kids didn’t like the idea but she had all the details worked out and was going to tell the kids AFTER she was settled in her new location.
Just a beautiful person; anyone who actually got to met her will never forget her.”
Finally, some wrote with this about the mystery of the Mark Twain room girl:
“Flora, just for kicks I googled Megan W______ too and shot an email to the one who’s a cook/chef, telling her about this group and asking if you might have been referring to her. She wrote back saying it indeed is her, and that she’s flattered that you remember and she wants to get back to the hotel. I just wrote her back now to ask if she minds if I post what she wrote me. :)”
Oh my. This all brings back how much I love the SBH and makes me wonder why I wait so long between visits. I know why, really. Being there is so perfect that when I come home I feel discontent with my life until…eventually….that Sylvia Beach longing wears off a bit, and then I want to stay contented with my life, so I put off going back.